Going Down With the Ship? The Effect of School Accountability on the Distribution of Teacher Experience in California

Many school accountability programs, including the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act are built on the premise that the threat of sanctions attached to failure will produce higher student achievement. However, the stigma associated with failing schools and the expected costs of possible future sanctions may lead experienced teachers to leave these schools for other opportunities. This may undermine the program’s improvement efforts. Particularly it may lead failing schools to rely on a higher proportion of novice teachers. This study looks at elementary and secondary schools in California from 2002-2006 to determine the effect of failing to meet academic performance thresholds on teacher experience under the NCLB accountability system. Because failing schools differ in important ways from schools that meet performance targets, the author takes advantage of the racial subgroup rules to compare groups of schools that may have different failure probabilities despite similar profiles. The author finds that failure to meet AYP is associated with decreases in aggregate teacher experience and increases in the proportion of novice teachers.

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